Metropolitan Police have arrested a Tory MP on suspicion of ‘indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in public office’, according to a force spokesman .
“In January 2020 the Met received a report regarding alleged sexual offenses which occurred between 2002 and 2009,” it said.
In an updated statement released today, the force said the man, who is in his 50s, had been released on bail ‘pending further investigation on a date in mid-June. “.
But, as FactCheck has already covered, you won’t find the arrested MP’s name in the mainstream media. Their identity will also not be revealed by Parliament, the Conservative Party or the police.
Why did Parliament not appoint the MP?
Previously, if an MP was arrested, the Speaker of the House of Commons had to tell the House – either through an oral statement or by “laying” a letter in the House of Commons Library. This means that the identity of the arrested member soon became public.
But in 2016, the rules changed on the recommendation of the House of Commons Standards Committee. The Speaker is no longer obliged to inform the House of the arrest of a Member and can only do so if the Member agrees.
The Committee’s justification was that the previous arrangements were incompatible with a person’s right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights and other parts of UK law.
They said they wanted to bring the rules for appointing an arrested MP in line with common practice for appointing an ordinary member of the public in such circumstances. Official guidelines state that police will only name an arrested person if there is an exceptional reason to do so, such as a threat to life.
Why did the Conservative Party not nominate the member?
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party told the BBC on Tuesday: “The chief whip [who is in charge of party discipline] requested that the MP concerned not report to the parliamentary area while an investigation is underway. Until the conclusion of the investigation, we will not comment further.
Why didn’t the media name him?
Once someone has been arrested, the rules regarding what can be published are very strict. The idea is to ensure that if a case ever goes to trial, prospective jurors will not be harmed by what they have read or seen in the media.
In May 2020, the Court of Appeal endorsed an earlier High Court ruling that “generally a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a police investigation up to the time of charge”. This case involved the Bloomberg news agency, which wanted to report the name of a businessman identified in documents relating to a corruption investigation. The Court of Appeal’s decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in February 2022.
And the stakes are high. Publishing something that turns out to be incorrect could result in a libel suit from a wrongfully accused person, or even a contempt of court conviction if a judge thinks what was published could create a substantial risk of serious harm at the end of a trial. These rules also apply to ordinary members of the public, including on social media.